Well clearly blogs are like the 73 bus. You wait ages then three come along at once!
I have not posted in a while. Why? Well partly because I more and more felt I was stating the bleedin’ obvious. Partly because there seem to be more educational blogs than there are teachers. However, some lovely people contacted me to say they found “Joined In Thinking” helpful. So inspired by my colleagues and my pupils, I am recommencing.  Hopefully every Friday, but maybe not Christmas Day or New Years Day. Here goes:

To Set or not to Set? That is the question.

28th November 2015

It is a question I have pondered for the last two decades. Are maths sets for year 6 a good idea? Instinctively I say no, but there does seem to be evidence that there is an opportunity to fine tune and fill gaps that benefits pupils. There is always the anxiety of where to put new children; good mathematicians must be in higher sets even if the language needs adjusting or illustrating.  Where you have teachers with the skills to adapt, and access to dictionaries, progress can be rapid.
For children from overseas the biggest hurdle is often our very different curriculum. Taiwo, from Nigeria asked me “Is it always shape in England?” This was because all her gaps were in shape, scarcely covered in the Nigerian curriculum, but a make or break aspect of the old SATs tests.

Similarly, our desire to wrap and disguise the calculation we want is confounding for some pupils. This is actually a problem for many pupils from other cultures in the UK. Charmaine Kenner undertook a great project in Tower Hamlets where pupils created contexts for maths problems that were very familiar to them, in order to better engage them in the actual mathematics they were learning.

The other approach is to remove the context and go to complete fantasy with made up characters. It seems bizarre, but calculating how many glurgs can fit in the space ship gives learners a confidence when confronted with the equally baffling carnations into a vase.
A colleague asked me what was the point of the three children in all the old maths and science papers. This is a question you would not ask if you had watched an EAL pupil struggle with the name Graham in a 35 minute maths test.